Pubdate: Sat, 12 Aug 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Salmaan Farooqui
Page: B5


TORONTO - Harm reduction workers in Toronto are calling for the
immediate opening of interim safe injection spaces and social housing
with a focus on helping drug users as the city deals with a spike in
opioid overdoses.

The demands were among a list of measures issued by the Ontario
Coalition Against Poverty and other advocacy groups on Friday, as they
called for a declaration of a public health emergency over the issue
and asked for the wide distribution of drug testing kits in the city.

A string of overdoses and suspected overdose deaths has put the issue
of opioid use under the spotlight in Toronto in recent days.

Last week, the city announced it was speeding up the opening of three
supervised injection sites, and widening the distribution of the
opioid overdose antidote naloxone to public health staff, community
agencies and first responders. It also asked local police to consider
having some officers carry naloxone.

This week, more than a dozen harm reduction workers met with Toronto
Mayor John Tory on Thursday to discuss the recent rise in overdoses.

Tory said in a statement that he would speak with Ontario's health
minister to get more help from the province.

Jacob Nagy, a peer supporter at the Queen West Health Centre said that
providing social housing that caters to drug users, with specific
"harm reduction beds," would make a difference.

"In a regular shelter bed if you get caught using, you get discharged,
and that's the difference. The harm reduction beds will turn their
heads if they see you using," said Nagy, adding that being discharged
can lead to people using drugs in a less controlled environment where
they could overdose and die.

"People are living in poverty and they're using (drugs) to

He also said that drug users would be less afraid to call 911 if
police only responded to overdose calls while carrying naloxone.

Advocates also said immediately opening interim drug use spaces would
save lives while the city prepared three supervised injection sites
that are expected to open later this year.

"We're in the midst of a crisis now, and waiting until the fall for
the safe injection sites means that more people will die
unnecessarily," said Jessica Hales, a member of the Ontario Coalition
Against Poverty.

"Hopefully, we can prevent that by having public sites available so
people can intervene if there's and overdose."

But Coun. Joe Cressy, Chair of the Toronto Drug Strategy
Implementation Panel, said that demand was not feasible as injection
sites are governed by federal rules.
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